How to Build a Successful Sales Development Model


By Trish Bertuzzi

I’m excited to be speaking at the Sales 2.0 Conference in Boston on May 2 on the topic of “The Six Elements of Sales Development: What It Takes to Lead a World-Class Team.” In this blog post, I’ll share more details on one of the six elements: crafting a winning sales development model.

Much like Goldilocks and her porridge, your sales development model needs to be “just right” for your organization. Figuring this out early will save you from account executives’ complaints such as, “Those leads weren’t qualified enough. They aren’t worth my time” or “My SDR isn’t passing enough meetings. What are they doing all day?”

  • Setting Introductory Meetings: Let’s be clear on the realities here. The meetings being set here are introductory – from the Latin introda, meaning not ready to buy yet. (Kidding!) This can include face-to-face meetings or a discovery phone call. With introductory meetings, prospects have a sense of your overall value proposition but haven’t been qualified as to their readiness or ability to move forward.

  • Generating Qualified Opportunities: Qualified opportunities differ in that they are, well, qualified. The rep is still closing on a meeting or call but has: a) moved the prospect from curiosity into interest and b) vetted that the prospect meets or exceeds a minimum threshold of “sales-worthiness.”

Introductory Meetings: How to Select Metrics that Work for You

One of the biggest mistakes I see companies make is setting internal expectations using introductory meeting metrics (quantity) and then requiring opportunity-level qualification (quality). This seemingly innocuous misstep often ends in total disaster.

“Qualified introductory meetings” is an oxymoron. If your sales development process and expectations are at cross purposes, account executives will lose faith in the team, your SDRs will burn out, your culture will sour, and your group will fail to deliver.

As I mentioned earlier, I don’t consider one model universally better – or more effective – than the other. I do believe that, in certain situations, one is likely more appropriate than the other. Here’s my rule of thumb.

Deploy an introductory meeting model when the market for your product is immature and/or when your account executives need more at-bats.

Let me give you an example. Today, customer relationship management (CRM) software is a mature market. Most (if not all) technology-enabled companies already have a solution in place. Those companies have existing contracts with future renewal dates, and the thought of changing providers sounds like a major hassle. In this instance, if your SDRs are setting introductory meetings for the AEs, you’re just wasting everyone’s time. This instance would require the qualified opportunity model.

Compare that to the market for a predictive lead scoring solution. That market is still immature, as the concept itself is new. Vendors are faced with doing the work of educating the market on the problem they solve. Rather than qualify themselves out of a meeting, sales development reps should be closing on meetings at full speed in this category.

In terms of qualification for introductory meetings, you can’t get much beyond right profile, right person, and right high-level pain.

If your SDRs are booking meetings with the right types of companies, the right people within them, and the prospects are at least curious about addressing a potential pain point, then the reps have done their jobs well.

In an immature market, the number one challenge your SDRs face is to arouse curiosity around a business issue that potentially hasn’t even been recognized yet. Sales development should be teeing up introductory meetings so the account executive can do the work of educating the prospect and developing that curiosity into interest.

Overcoming “Empty-Calendar Syndrome”

The second case for the introductory meeting model is when account executives are suffering from empty calendar syndrome. This one is easy. If your sales team is screaming for more “at-bats,” then break glass and set meetings. Conversion rates, qualification criteria, and cost per meeting all go out the window when your account executives’ calendars are anemic. Setting introductory meetings in this scenario is your go-to.

There are pros and cons to each sales development model, but you really need to think through the dynamics of your buyer and market to determine which is right for you. I’ve never met a sales organization that quibbled over degree of qualification when AEs were starving to have more conversations with prospects.

I look forward to continuing the conversation at the Sales 2.0 Conference in Boston!

TrishBertuzziTrish Bertuzzi is the Best Selling Author of The Sales Development Playbook: Build Repeatable Pipeline and Accelerate Growth with Inside Sales and founder of The Bridge Group, Inc. Her team at The Bridge Group works with B2B technology companies, helping them unleash the power of inside sales. They are on a mission to help technology companies build highly successful inside sales teams. To date they have worked with 240+ companies ranging from global to high-growth SaaS.

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